Director: Hemanth M Rao
Writer: Hemanth M Rao, Gundu Shetty
Cast: Rakshit Shetty, Rukmini Vasanth, Gopalakrishna Deshpande, Pavithra Lokesh, Achyuth Kumar
Duration: 135 minutes
Available in: Theatres
After years of getting used to the idea of love stories being light and fluffy and all things sunshine comes a film that tells you love can be found in the shadows too, and even jump across prison cells, infusing some warmth to a cold place. As a result, Side A of Hemanth M Rao’s Sapta Sagaradaache Ello, starring Rakshit Shetty and Rukmini Vasanth and with cinematography by Advaitha Gurumurthy, is like that conch shell that’s far removed from the ocean, but still resounds with the sounds of the vast expanse of water.
Only someone confident in his writing could have named his 143-minute film after water, and shown us just a fleeting glimpse of a blue expanse; the ocean pounds on, though, in our minds and hearts, and in the spindles and fabric on the power loom.
You’re introduced to Manu (a brooding vulnerable Rakshit), a car driver, and Priya (a brilliant Rukmini), a student who sings beautifully. It is 2010. They are not giddy-headed in love — you just know they have been together for long. There is a certain ease and lived-in ness to their relationship. Even their banter moves towards a greater purpose — to find a home of their own. After a point, you don’t even wonder about their history, because their present is all-consuming. Their chemistry is effortless and intense. Their fingers can’t stop entwining themselves, even in the corridors of a court, or across prison fences. These portions and the intense longing bring to mind the few moments of cheer in Kamal Haasan-starrer Mahanadhi (1994).
Priya’s mother (Pavithra Lokesh) is accepting of their relationship. Manu seems to have no family, and all seems fine. Yet, you’re filled with a certain unease. Where is all this leading to?
A single wrong choice by Manu throws the young couple under the bus, and they are left to pick up the pieces of that mistake.
The film, co-written by Gundu Shetty, is accepting of human frailties such as greed. You empathise with some prisoners, you even feel for the tycoon who has a shred of conscience. Everyone is real. Even when she speaks to her daughter with concern, Priya’s mother turns to look at the bubbling oil on the stove — the fries she makes and sells to keep the family afloat.
Will Manu and Priya’s love be hemmed in by the bars of a prison cell? That’s for you to see, and for us to know better in Side B of the film, scheduled to be released on October 20.
During one of the first looks of the film, I thought of how the film showed it was possible to be in solitude even among a sea of people. The 543 tape recorder and the cassette in the film is that wondrous object that allows Manu some quietness even amid clattering power looms. There should be a dirge when that music stops!
Prisoner Patil (Sharath Lohithaswa), a leader of sorts who helps convicts find some purpose inside prison, tells a broken Manu: Dying is easy; living is difficult. You get punished for some sins, but can never be forgiven. And, you just understand. What will happen to Manu inside the walls of the prison? Will the wetness of his heart stay alive or will he turn into another cold person who delights in tormenting others?
So, is SSE Side A flawless? No. But, the rousing end act wipes all of that from memory.
This is a film that deserves and commands a certain frame of mind. It needs you to let go and submit yourself to the pace Hemanth sets (he’s also a co-editor). Love is of all kinds. Contemplation is love too. As is sacrifice. And, as is letting go.
Somewhere along the line, you just know what’s going to happen, but the writing and the fine performances (Gopalkrishna Deshpande, Achyuth Kumar, Sharath Lohithaswa) insist you sit down and allow the waves of grief to wash over you. Charan Raj’s music works alongside the fine writing, both in the scintillating background score and the songs (superb, melting lyrics by Dhananjay Ranjan, Nagarjun Sharma and B R Suvarna Sharma). You appreciate the songs way better after watching the movie, though. That context helps greatly. If you’ve watched Raj Shetty-starrer Toby, which released last week, you might chuckle at a particular edit in this film.
Rakshit is a proven performer, and he infuses Manu with a certain swag and vulnerability. But, it takes a superb artiste like Rukmini to get you rooting for Priya. When was the last time we saw someone like Priya on screen? Rukmini brings alive the angst of a young woman drawn into a legal battle for a choice made by someone she loves. And despite the distance and the odds stacked against them, her love soars. That smile, those tear-rimmed eyes… tug at your heart.
SSE is like sitting down to watch a test match, and preparing yourself for the long haul with some fine strokes, before a T-20 player walks into the wrong field, and takes the match places. And, after all that mood being set, you need this fast-paced action to feel some sort of closure.
Hemanth proved he’s no run-of-the-mill storyteller with his very first movie Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu (2016), starring Rakshit, and followed it up with the slow-burn Kavaludaari (2019). With SSE, he establishes himself as a director who believes in letting a story and film take long life-giving breaths before he commands them to do his bidding.
This seems to get carried over to Side B too. You get snatches of what might happen there, some characters from the prison are back, and Manu seems to half-smile, but for now, SSE is like that conch — Manu and Priya have entered your hearts and they have no plan of leaving that space.